BrainDen.com (http://brainden.com/logic-riddles.htm) states that a riddle is simply a statement which has a secret meaning.
They give as an example the following old favorite:
Brothers and sisters I have none but this man’s father is my father’s son.
Who is the man?
The answer of course is “the man is my son”.
But my favorite riddle from BrainDen could be a model for solving the puzzle of Forrest’s poem:
What is greater than God,
more evil than the devil,
the poor have it,
the rich need it,
and if you eat it, you’ll die?
The answer “nothing”.
At first unveiling the answer “nothing” sounds like a cheat…but it is not…and is best understood by turning each line of the riddle into a question, such as:
What is greater than God…nothing.
What is more evil than the devil…nothing.
What do the poor have…nothing.
What do the rich need…nothing.
What happens if you eat nothing…you die.
This I believe is the kind of riddle that could be contained in Forrest’s poem…
But wait!…there’s more…
Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddle#In_real_life) is much more extensive and tells us that a riddle is:
…a statement or question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved.
Wiki goes on to say:
…riddles have in the past few decades ceased to be part of oral tradition, being replaced by other oral-literary forms…
And then Wiki provides many very concise examples of riddles from various parts of the peopled world, from the Old Testament to Batman. All very fascinating, in my opinion and certainly furthers my interest in looking at Forrest’s poem as a riddle…
Wiki points out that there are two basic types of riddles…Enigmas and Cunundrums. Forrest’s riddle type would most definitely be an enigma.
Enigmas are problems expressed in allegorical language, requiring careful thinking and ingenuity to solve.
If I take the combined definitions from Wiki and BrainDen for “riddle”…I come up with:
A statement having a secret or hidden meaning put forth as a puzzle to be solved.
That certainly seems to sum up our poem. Further, knowing Forrest’s interest in words, word games, history and humor…the literary riddle seems to be right up his alley…
Nothing in any definition of a riddle that I have come across suggests a riddle is any kind of cipher or code.
Riddles have been part of literature for a very long time…
Ancient Sumerians lay claim to this one reputed to be over 4,000 years old:
What house do you enter blind but come out seeing?
Answer: A schoolhouse
In Alice in Wonderland the Mad Hatter asks Alice, how is a Raven like a writing desk?…
J. R. R. Tolkien planted riddles in The Hobbit.
Edgar Allen Poe wrapped riddles into a few of his works.
In Oedipus Rex the monster requires the answer to a riddle before the sojourner can continue.
Plato and Einstein played with riddles…Even Harry Potter contains riddles.
And riddles in poetry go nearly as far back as poetry itself. But there are plenty of modern examples as well. Emily Dickinson loved to riddle in her poems. Her poems were numbered. This is #466.
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
Emily is describing poetry itself…fairer than prose…a kind of house she can live in.
I know what you’re thinking…so what’s the answer Dal? How did this help you solve the poem?
It hasn’t…but I’ve just started in on this approach.
Here’s how I think I might be able to use it…
Folks have suggested many times over the years that perhaps the clues all refer to the same place…
That could certainly be true in a literary riddle…as in the “nothing” riddle above where one word answers all the questions.
The word that is key which Forrest has referred to could be the answer to all the clues…again, as in the “nothing” riddle above.
It certainly gives me a new license to interpret “Brown”.
Forrest has said over and over that the puzzle of the poem is difficult but not impossible to figure out, and that is certainly what a riddle is…
Begin it in the corner but travel round the world.